Thursday, July 31, 2014
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
July 31, 2014
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
July 31, 2014
Good morning. I am delighted to be here today and would especially like to thank Dr. Peter Pham for the invitation. This is a very exciting time for us. Next Monday, President Obama will welcome 51 Heads of State and Government and other senior leaders from across Africa to the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The Summit, which will take place over three days, is the first such event of its kind and the largest event any U.S. President has ever held with African leaders.
It is an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen U.S. ties with Africa and highlight our commitment to addressing issues that affect us collectively.
We have two main objectives: 1) We want African leaders, and African citizens, to come away with the clear message that the United States cares about their continent and is committed to an enduring, multifaceted partnership. 2) We also want to see the Summit lead to increased American investment on the continent and to more direct linkages between U.S. and African companies.
Overview of Summit
As you likely have heard, this will not be your typical Summit. At the explicit direction of the President, it is designed to be interactive and conversational. We have been working closely for months to set the agenda with our partners including African governments, Washington-based Ambassadors, private sector leaders, interagency stakeholders, and representatives of civil society for the Summit. This participatory format reflects the multilayered, long-term partnership that characterizes the U.S. relationship with Africa.
Perhaps as an even bigger demonstration of the depth and diversity of U.S. interest in Africa, we are currently tracking an incredible number of side events – more than 80 at last count – hosted by businesses, nongovernmental organizations, diaspora groups, and think tanks. This participation very clearly shows that it is not just the U.S. Government that cares about Africa, but also the American people. I know that many of you in the room today are playing major roles in these events, and I want to personally thank you for the time and energy you have invested in helping us make the Summit a success.
Some critics suggest that a regional Summit like this minimizes the importance of bilateral relationships. But I disagree. Bilateral ties are the bedrock of U.S. foreign policy. We have more Embassies in African capitals than any other country in the world. Our Ambassadors and their teams engage with our counterparts on a daily basis. This is precisely why Secretary Kerry urged the Senate to confirm our remaining Ambassadorial nominees – and why it is so crucial that they do so quickly – so that they can be in place to nurture these critical relationships.
That said, in today’s world many of our highest priorities are regional and global in scope. Transnational threats like violent extremism, climate change, health threats, trafficking of arms, narcotics, people and wildlife, economic insecurity, to name a few, have no regard for national borders and are too big for any one nation to resolve. So, just as we work bilaterally with African countries, we also work with them in regional and multilateral fora. It is why the United States is so deeply engaged with the African Union and why the Chairperson of the AU and several other senior officials will be here next week for the Summit.
We know the United States is not the only country looking to partner with African nations on a regional or bilateral basis. The suggestion that the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is a reaction to some other event or some other country’s activities in Africa overlooks our five solid decades of collaboration and cooperation. Ambassador Rice stated clearly yesterday, the United States “does not see Africa as a pipeline to extract vital resources nor a funnel for charity.” We are not threatened by the presence of other nations in Africa. Rather, we encourage our African partners to determine what relationships, whether transactional or enduring, will most benefit the lives of their people.
As I said, we hope to see increased U.S. investment as one of the Summit’s key outcomes. When we talk about the fact that most of the world’s fastest growing economies are in sub-Saharan Africa, we’re also seeing a burgeoning middle class of African consumers and an expanding market for U.S. direct investment. This means enormous growth opportunities for American business and new jobs for Africans and Americans.
Since 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act has played a fundamental role in our efforts to build sustainable inclusive economic growth in Africa and promote opportunities for U.S. companies.
President Obama has made it clear that his Administration will seek a seamless renewal of AGOA, and we have been working closely with our colleagues on the Hill in pursuit of that goal. It is up to Congress to decide when and for how long AGOA will be extended. What is important is that this has support on both sides of the aisle. We are looking forward to the AGOA Ministerial on Monday as a chance to celebrate AGOA’s successes and to reflect on ways to modernize and strengthen the program.
Later on Monday, small-group dinners for American CEOs, African Heads of State and Governments will be held all across the city. These dinners were arranged to give these individuals a chance to discuss what is needed on both sides to move our economic cooperation forward.
The following day, the Commerce Department and Bloomberg Philanthropies will co-host the U.S.-Africa Business Forum at the Mandarin Oriental. There will be approximately 300 participants from U.S. and African business leaders, African Heads of State and Ministers, U.S. Government agencies, and Members of Congress.
Representatives will attend from many sectors including power and energy, infrastructure, finance and capital investment, information communication technologies, consumer goods, and agriculture. Again, participation is limited to allow for more direct engagement.
As Ambassador Rice mentioned yesterday, “We’ve deliberately focused the summit beyond the crises of the moment to envision the future we want and how we can work together to achieve critical goals—10 and 15 years from now.” On Wednesday, President Obama will host three Leaders Sessions at the State Department.
The first session, Investing in Africa’s Future, will be both an opening plenary and a discussion of inclusive, sustainable development and economic growth. I expect the discussion to draw from conversations that took place during the preceding two days at the AGOA Ministerial, the Business Forum, and the Power Africa event hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa.
A word about Power Africa, the initiative President Obama launched last summer to increase electricity generation capacity in sub-Saharan Africa by 10,000 megawatts. Beginning in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania, Power Africa represents a new model for development, leveraging private sector investment to meet generation and access goals.
Twelve U.S. Government agencies and other public and private sector partners are deploying development assistance, financing, investment, and diplomatic tools to accelerate dozens of energy transactions. Over the next five years, the United States will commit more than $7 billion in financial support, so that we can attract more private investment in Africa’s energy sector. So this is not about overnight solutions or one-off deals, but instead about long-term collaborative efforts.
Peace and Regional Stability is the theme of the second session. This session will focus on shared concerns and potential new ways to work together to find long-term solutions to regional security and peacekeeping challenges. Many African countries are facing significant threats from violent groups exploiting socio-economic challenges, as well as local grievances, ethnic group tensions, weak institutions, and porous borders. The United States supports African efforts to improve security at the sub-regional, national, and continental levels, with the clear understanding that our partners are in the lead. So, we work in cooperation with them in the African Union and across their security sector – with their police, other law enforcement agencies, justice systems, and armed forces.
How are we cooperating? To give just a few examples: since 2005 we have trained over a quarter of a million African peacekeepers in 25 countries through our Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance Program, or ACOTA. We are working to counter extremism in the Sahel region through the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership in the west, and the Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism in the east.
We are supporting the African Union-led missions in Somalia, and we supported the African Union-led Missions in Mali and the Central African Republic before they transitioned to a blue-helmeted UN operation. In these instances we are not imposing American solutions, but rather, helping build resilience, capacity, and partnerships that address instability’s complex root causes and not just its most troubling manifestations.
Wednesday’s last conversation will concern Governing for the Next Generation. This discussion will allow us to highlight areas where African governments are registering progress. It will also provide an opportunity for a candid exchange about how we might deepen our partnership to tackle obstacles to development and the full achievement of fundamental rights. The discussion will focus on strengthening public institutions, civil society, rule of law, and opportunities for youth while tackling the billions in lost revenue due to illicit finance and corruption.
These are not the only topics that will be addressed in the Summit’s official agenda. The U.S. Government will host six official side events, called “Signature Events,” that will bring together certain U.S. and African government Leaders and officials, members of African and U.S. private sector, the diaspora, and others. These Signature Events are designed to deepen awareness of some of the critical issues facing the continent and to foster collaboration on ways we might work together to resolve them.
The Signature Events are:
o Honoring the Contributions of the Faith Community
o The Civil Society Forum
o Investing in Women for Peace and Prosperity
o Investing in Health
o Resilience and Food Security in a Changing Climate
o Combating Wildlife Trafficking
Unfortunately we don’t have time here to detail each of these events, but I did want to tell you a little bit about the Civil Society Forum. On Monday morning, 600 representatives of governments, civil society, diaspora groups, the private sector and the philanthropic community will gather for a series of sessions and a Town hall hosted by Secretary Kerry. The event will demonstrate the importance of leveraging the knowledge, experience and resources of citizens and civil society and safeguarding civic space.
Before I conclude, a few words on the subject of youth engagement. This past week, 500 of Africa’s most inspiring young leaders from across the African continent gathered here in Washington. They are the first cohort of the newly renamed Mandela Washington Fellowship of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), President Obama’s signature initiative for engaging with youth in Africa.
In the past generation, Africa has experienced remarkable change. Now we must think about the change we hope to see for the next generation.
If the continent is to realize its potential for economic growth, African youth must be engaged. If it fails and this growth is not achieved, the continent will have the largest unemployed youth population on earth. Millions of youth will not be invested in the future of their nations or communities. Millions will live with the potential of being attracted to extremist ideologies or criminal activity because no positive alternatives seem accessible.
This is what YALI, the Mandela Washington Fellowship, and the Summit’s overarching theme of “Investing in the Next Generation” is about for us. Africa, just like the United States, needs dedicated young people to become leaders in all aspects of their societies – in schools, in business, in civil society. This is why President Obama invited his African counterparts to discuss their plans for youth engagement, to share best practices and help others build on successful models. As the President said on Monday morning in his YALI Town Hall,
o “Even as we deal with crises and challenges in other parts of the world that often dominate our headlines, even as we acknowledge the real hardships that so many Africans face every day, we have to make sure that we’re seizing the extraordinary potential of today’s Africa, which is the youngest and fastest-growing of the continents.”
In conclusion, let me stress that we see the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit as a reaffirmation of the United States’ ongoing commitment to Africa. We look forward to the energizing effect this Summit will have on our bilateral and regional relationships across the continent and on our investment and business ties. A decade from now or even five years from now, I am certain we will look back on this Summit as having deepened the partnership between the American and African peoples as we pursue a better future for us all.
Thank you. I would be happy to take a few questions.
Social Commentator Alfred Sirleaf, gives comment on current events in Liberia including the deadly Ebola virus by speaking and writhing them down on a blackboard in Monrovia, Liberia, Thursday, July 31, 2014. The worst recorded Ebola outbreak in history surpassed 700 deaths in West Africa as the World Health Organization on Thursday announced dozens of new fatalities.
Former Presidents George H. W. Bush, right, and George W. Bush before the Houston Texans NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Houston. George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush are cooperating with a historian for a joint biography about the former presidents. “Presidents Bush: A Portrait of a Father and Son,” by Mark K. Updegrove, has been acquired by Henry Holt and Company. The book is scheduled for Spring 2016. Image: AP
Medical personnel work at the Doctors Without Borders facility in Kailahun, Sierra Leone where Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan died. A leading doctor who risked his own life to treat dozens of Ebola patients died Tuesday, July 29, 2014, from the disease, officials said, as a major regional airline announced it was suspending flights to the cities hardest hit by an outbreak that has killed more than 670 people. Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, who was praised as a national hero for treating the disease in Sierra Leone, was confirmed dead by health ministry officials there. He had been hospitalized in quarantine. Image: Youssouf Bah
(A teacher at Maska Road Islamic School teaches Hadith excerpts in a classroom in Kaduna, July 16, 2014. REUTERS/Joe Penney)
* Government to launch programme combating Boko Haram ideology
* Northern schools juggle Islam with secular "Western" education
* Muslims preaching tolerance targeted by Boko Haram
* Programme to target school pupils, prisoners
By Tim Cocks
KADUNA, Nigeria, July 30 (Reuters) - In classrooms facing a sandy courtyard in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, Maska Road Islamic School teaches a creed that condemns the violent ideology of groups like Boko Haram.
Not everyone has got its message. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, known as the "Pants Bomber", spent his youth in this school - and ended up trying unsuccessfully to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day 2009 with explosives hidden in his underwear.
But the school is steadfast in preaching tolerance to its pupils, and the government is about to adopt this message in a new strategy for containing Boko Haram, which has killed thousands in a five-year campaign for an Islamic state.
"We teach them that what they (Boko Haram) are doing is a total misunderstanding of the Islamic religion, that Prophet Mohammed was compassionate, he even lived together with the non-Muslims in Medina," said headmaster Sulaiman Saiki.
"We teach them tolerance," he told Reuters as girls in the next room softly recited Koranic verses in Arabic melodies.
Abdulmutallab was radicalised in an al Qaeda camp in Yemen, but his case shows that even youths given a relatively liberal Muslim education can be seduced by radical Islam. This is something the new government programme is aiming to combat.
Koranic schools like Maska Road will be a pillar of the strategy being launched in September to counter Boko Haram's ideology. The aim is to win over the "hearts and minds" of young Nigerians.
They will also challenge Boko Haram's claim that secular teaching is "un-Islamic" - Boko Haram means "Western education is sinful" in Hausa, the dominant language in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north.
Maska Road teaches only Koranic verses and other tenets of Muslim faith, and encourages its 300 students to take classes such as science and literature outside its walls.
"We want them to get a Western education and combine it with ... religious learning," Saiki says. Classes are held between 4 and 6 p.m., after secular schools shut.
Fatah Abdul, who studies at Maska Road, scoffs at the idea of violence in the name of Islam.
"Our religion doesn't entertain killing. Boko Haram is absolutely different from what our religion advocates," she said. "And it's not true what they say that we need an Islamic state. The leadership doesn't have to be Islamic".
Saiki was a neighbour of Abdulmutallab when the future Pants Bomber was at school. He says Abdulmutallab didn't learn to hate the West there but "was deceived afterwards".
Abdulmutallab, a loner from a well-to-do northern family, showed how easily youths can be radicalised. Add poverty into the mix, as in Nigeria's troubled northeastern Borno state, and it's not hard to see how Boko Haram finds young recruits.
Boko Haram is suspected of being behind suicide bombings that killed 82 people in Kaduna last week, including one against a Muslim cleric about to lead a public prayer.
Kaduna, the capital of the north in colonial times, is richer than anywhere in the northeastern region where Boko Haram is based. But it shares many of its problems such as high youth unemployment, attested by the many children begging and hawking phone credit on its rubbish-filled streets.
President Goodluck Jonathan's administration has been pilloried for its apparent powerlessness to crush the rebels or protect civilians, including more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in April and who remain in captivity. But he has also faced censure for neglecting the insurgency's underlying causes.
So when Jonathan's National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki announced a new "soft approach to terrorism" in March, many instantly dismissed it as lacking in substance.
But officials in the office of the NSA say imams in mosques and traditional elders will be co-opted to preach tolerance, while measures will be taken to ensure Koranic schools teach "correct" interpretations of sacred texts.
The drive will also include educational programmes, especially increased sports and music in northern schools, plus reform programmes for convicted Boko Haram detainees.
"A lot them don't have much Islamic knowledge, so they tend to believe what the mullahs say," Fatima Akilu, director of behavioural analysis in the office of the NSA told Reuters. "We want to teach what the Koran actually says in a language they understand."
A parallel economic programme, also funded by the NSA's budget, will address the chronic poverty seen as a major driver of the insurgency.
It may be too late to bring back hundreds of youths already fighting for Boko Haram, but the idea is to prevent more from joining.
Northern Nigeria has much lower levels of education than the south, a legacy of British colonialism, which protected the caliphates of the north from the activity of Christian missionaries who set up many schools in the south.
"The aspects of education Boko Haram don't like are the ones that allow you to think," Akilu said. "Keep people in the dark and you can control them with a singular narrative."
Undoing this partly involves showing how "Western" ideas, such as mathematics and some physics and astronomy, are rooted in mediaeval Islamic thought, which was making strides while Christians in Europe were busy burning witches.
At the Sultan Bello mosque in Kaduna's busy downtown market area, local imam Ahmed Gumi takes an unusual step to illustrate his openness to the non-Islamic world: he invites four Reuters journalists in to see, film and photograph his sermon.
Three are non-Muslim, including two Westerners. He introduces the team to his congregation of about 350 packed into a main hall, and after a chorus of "welcome" he offers a live interview about his views on Boko Haram in front of the faithful.
"It's not right to call what those boys are doing Islamic," he later told Reuters privately. "They hide behind Islam."
Gumi, one of northern Nigeria's most popular clerics, sees the idea of an Islamic state dear to extremists as a throwback.
"They want to bring back the golden age of Islamic triumph in this modern time." he says. "For a state to survive you need a strong civilisation, education, money, lawyers, doctors. You don't create a civilisation with AK-47s in the bush."
He knows his outspoken views carry a risk he'll be targeted by Boko Haram. His mosque, a towering structure spread between four sand-coloured turrets with turquoise-green domes, is guarded by scores of unarmed volunteers checking cars and bags.
Boko Haram fighters have killed dozens of clerics. One of the targets of the Kaduna bombs was a Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, an imam whose mystical Sufism is a far cry from the austere al Qaeda-style type of Islam. Bauchi survived.
Though a government critic, Gumi approves of the soft approach, "but it needs local Borno (leaders) more than people like us who are already openly opposed to them".
Taking issue with Boko Haram's ideology will work only if the government can draw disaffected youths away from the AK-47. The NSA's economic programme aims to do this, starting with 2 billion naira ($12.3 million), but with a further 60 billion that can be made available from other agencies for projects, said Soji Adelaja, NSA special adviser on economic intelligence.
They include mobile medical trucks, cash for the orphans and widows of Boko Haram's victims, and a programme employing 150,000 youths to fix roads and rebuild police stations.
Parts of Nigeria that are completely besieged by the insurgents are off-limits, but there are other vulnerable areas where the programme can be rolled out, Adelaja says. "We are deploying in areas that are safe, and where the community has some resilience against Boko Haram."
The death of Boko Haram's founder Mohammed Yusuf in police custody transformed what had been a clerical movement into an armed rebellion in 2009. Akilu says Yusuf disliked "Western" science which he saw as contradicting the Koran, especially evolutionary theory, the fact that the world is round and the process of evaporation, because "rain is a gift from God".
Getting schools to show how science and religion can co-exist, she says, is essential to combating such ideas.
Down a dirt track with crater-like potholes on the outskirts of Kaduna lies the iron-roofed Focus 1,2,3 International School. Twelve classrooms packed with desks take 25 children each.
Secular education is between 7.30 a.m. and midday. After lunch, Islamic schooling is between 1 p.m. and 5.30 p.m.
Muhammad Saleh, who runs the school, believes strongly in science, although he has doubts about evolutionary theory - as do many conservative Christians in the West.
Even so, his school teaches it. "I teach them evolution myself, and the parents never complain," he told Reuters. "It's education. Once children have an education they can decide for themselves what to think." ($1 = 161.95 naira) (Additional reporting by Garba Muhammed in Kaduna; editing by David Stamp)